Marcelo Bielsa puts Leeds United duo Tyler Roberts and Ian Poveda in same boat but highlights key difference
Leeds United duo Tyler Roberts and Ian Poveda find themselves in the same boat as the 2020/21 season nears its end.
Marcelo Bielsa today praised the pair for their attacking ability but wants to see more end product from both.
They have enjoyed contrasting seasons thus far. Roberts has become a regular first team fixture thanks to injury and fitness issues for Rodrigo and Pablo Hernandez, while Poveda has had no such luck, Raphinha nailing down the right wing berth and Jack Harrison the left.
What they share in common is the admiration of their head coach, the skill to beat defenders and a lack of goals. Neither man has hit the net for the senior side this season.
It's something Roberts is happy to admit sits on his mind, even if his overall performances in an extended run of starts have been promising.
"I'm feeling fit, happy to be starting games and hopefully the goals and assists can come," he said.
"It's been very disappointing and I'm very critical of my own game. It's something I know I need to improve but I feel like my performances have been strong and I've been learning and improving. I think I've matured massively, understood my role even more and produce the abilities I have. It's about getting the confidence to really go at defenders and make a difference."
Roberts showcased a little of that confidence on Monday night against Liverpool and very nearly made a difference. His quick feet allowed him to dance into the area in the second half and find Jack Harrison, whose shot was beaten away by Alisson Becker.
The goalkeeper also produced a fine stop to prevent Roberts from scoring, having been found by a lovely inside pass from the boot of Poveda.
With a little more luck, one man could have ended the night with a goal and an assist and the other an assist.
Bielsa believes Roberts has proven himself capable of starting top flight games and sees a lot of potential for improvement, particularly with regard to hitting the net.
"He has played many games in a row and he has shown that he has the resources to justify his starting position in the team," said the head coach ahead of Sunday's game against Manchester United, when Roberts is expected to feature again while Rodrigo remains out injured.
"He has virtues which are very difficult to find in football at the moment. He has all the resources necessary to unbalance defensively and clearly he still has a lot to grow to make his attempts useful or efficient. He has many virtues and he needs to impact in these games in accordance with the virtues that he has, but clearly there are not many players with his creative aspect."
It's a similar story when it comes to former Manchester City youngster Poveda. A jet-heeled youngster who will create a buzz around Elland Road with his dribbling prowess when fans return, Poveda also needs to start making things happen in the final third for Leeds.
As Bielsa admits, he has the added difficulty of sitting behind a number of other, more experienced wingers in the Leeds pecking order.
The form of Raphinha has been outstanding this season. In his first taste of English football he has wowed fans with his pace and skill, adding six goals and six assists to show he's far more than tricks and flicks.
And, a recent dip in form aside, Harrison has done more than enough to keep his spot on the opposite flank. Although Costa lost his place to Raphinha and has struggled to make an impact at times, there have been flashes of what he can do and signs of aggression as he fights for a spot.
Twenty-one-year-old Poveda has had to be patient and Bielsa, while saying the same as he said about Roberts when it comes to end product, has sympathy.
"He hasn't had the luck of Tyler where he is able to play many games," said Bielsa.
"For any player to play they have to show they are in better conditions to play than the player who occupies that position, or that there are spaces in the team for reasons not to do with performance.
"In this sense, Poveda hasn't had many opportunities because Raphinha and Harrison have played more and when either of those have been absent, Helder Costa has played but [Poveda] is a player who has a great capacity to unbalance.
"He has dribbling skills which are difficult to decipher but like I was saying about Tyler he needs to create these attempts into something that impacts the game.
"But you have to be able to play to show conclusions and he has had very few minutes, not because he doesn't deserve them but because I have taken decisions to position him behind Raphinha, Harrison and Costa but in some ways he deserves more minutes due to the qualities that he has."
Six games remain the Premier League season for the pair to give the boss what he wants, on top of the strong performances and flashes of skill. A little luck could go a long way for either man but if not, they've simply got to make their own.